Games of the Week is a series intended to highlight a few games I find interesting across various professional sports. This week will be a fairly short version, as I have some larger projects that need more of my attention. You’ll see those soon. The “week,” for all intents and purposes, will be Thursday to Thursday, so we’re starting with NFL’s Thursday Night Football.
NFL (Week Six)
Game of the Week: Steelers at Chiefs, 10/15 @ 4:25 PM ET
Coming into the season, I would not have expected the Chiefs to become a staple in a Games of the Week column, but here we are. I don’t believe they’ll finish undefeated; expecting a team to do so only five games into the season is foolishness. They’re certainly the most dominant team in the NFL at the moment, though.
The Steelers, meanwhile, are sort of a mess; they’ll be looking for a bounce-back this week after Ben Roethlisberger’s miserable five interception game against a dominant Jaguars defense. The Chiefs’ defense is talented, to be sure, but they’ve shown some cracks in recent weeks, particularly in allowing 34 points to rookie Deshaun Watson last week (though a chunk of that came in garbage time). This team does miss Eric Berry.
I think the Chiefs’ run ends soon, but I don’t believe the Steelers – who traditionally have not been a very effective road time – are the ones to do it this week. The Pittsburgh offense can only go up from last week’s disaster, especially with all the talent they can put on the field, and I believe that’s how they’ll make this a game.
Prediction: Chiefs 28, Steelers 20
Player to Watch: Kareem Hunt (21 carries, 120 yards, 1 TD)
Hunt has quietly started to slow down the last two weeks, regressing to the mean in yards per carry and failing to reach the end zone. The Steelers have really struggled against the run this season – 28th in yardage allowed, 30th in yards per carry, second-most touchdowns allowed – and I think the Chiefs will take advantage.
MLB (Playoffs Edition)
Game of the Week: Cubs at Nationals, 10/12 @ 8:08 PM ET
Expected Starters: Kyle Hendricks (7-5, 3.03 ERA) vs Gio Gonzalez (15-9, 2.96 ERA)
In our second Game 5 in two nights, we have the defending champion Cubs against the NL East champion Nationals. The Nats avoided disaster yesterday when Stephen Strasburg was able to pitch through illness, and he was money – seven innings, no runs, 12 strikeouts. Had Tanner Roark started that game – and I don’t intend to throw shade at Roark – the Nats might be done right now. It was the antithesis of your typical DC sports playoff game – Strasburg dominated his entire start, the offense put them ahead, and they tacked on some insurance late to seal the deal.
Game 5 will be a toss-up; Kyle Hendricks was similarly stellar across from Strasburg in Game 1, and the Cubs are loaded on offensive talent, as we know. This Nationals team feels different to me, though. They’ve avoided the gut-punch losses, the bullpen is performing, and the stars look like stars. Keep in mind that they haven’t even had Max Scherzer for this entire series. Based on his peripherals, Gio Gonzalez benefited from some luck this year, but he’s already gotten them one win in this series and he should be able to put the offense in position to get the win.
Prediction: Nationals 4, Cubs 3
Player to Watch: Bryce Harper (4-of-5, 2B, HR, 3 RBI)
This could very well come back to bite me; betting on Washington sports teams in the playoffs is never a good idea. I just like this team, and it feels like their year. Bryce Harper is DC’s biggest star, in any sport, and I think he comes through here to finally advance the Nationals.
NCAA Football (Week Six)
(Some special rules for college football here – I’m only using games featuring at least one team in the AP Top-25 for the current week. Also, I don’t know jack about college football.)
Game of the Week: #10 Auburn at LSU, 10/14 @ 3:30 PM ET
Honest to god, there are no matchups between ranked teams this week in college football. At all. What are you doing to me, NCAA athletics? Make my job easier!
LSU has been one of those teams that just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. They were blown out by Mississippi State, narrowly escaped Syracuse, lost to Troy, and then clutched out a conference win over Florida. Derrius Guice has been banged up and is expected to be limited in this game, but backup Darrel Williams has also had some success this season and, if nothing else, quarterback Danny Etling doesn’t often turn the ball over.
Auburn is undoubtedly a much more talented team than LSU, but I think their run-heavy attack doesn’t lend itself to a blowout in this matchup. Both teams are going to run the ball a lot, because both quarterbacks lean more towards the infamous “game manager” label, so I see this as a fairly quick-moving game with these two teams trading blows with the ground game.
Prediction: Auburn 31, LSU 24
Player to Watch: Kerryon Johnson (30 carries, 175 yards, 2 TDs)
Johnson is a touchdown machine who has an unbelievable 11 scores in his past three games against SEC opponents Missouri, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss. Absurdly, this stat line would mean the junior back will have matched his touchdown total from the previous two seasons in just five games this year. I don’t see LSU’s 66th ranked rushing defense providing too much of an obstacle from it happening, though.
Last Week’s Predictions:
NFL (Week Five):
Chargers at Giants, 10/8:
Keenan Allen didn’t really go off, but yeah, this game was what it was. Philip Rivers was inefficient as hell (21-of-44, 5.9 YPA) but he and Melvin Gordon dragged the Chargers reluctantly to a win. Even the score of this one was eerily close. Full point.
1 out of 1
Panthers at Lions, 10/8:
Never believe in the Lions. Honestly, just don’t do it. Seeing the Panthers’ passing game click for the second consecutive week was an honest surprise, but for how gaudy the numbers were (Newton threw for 355 yards and 3 TDs), 27 points feels maybe a little underwhelming. Jon Stewart’s 18 carries for a miserable 21 yards probably didn’t help. The Lions played okay, but Ezekiel Ansah had only one sack rather than the massive game I thought we’d see from him, so I’m giving myself no points.
0 out of 1
Chiefs at Texans, 10/8:
The Texans did put the Chiefs to task here, but fell behind in a hurry in the fourth quarter. Season-ending injuries to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus didn’t help. Alex Smith was also a supernova once again, but I’m giving myself half a point for expecting Deshaun Watson to go off. If anything, I didn’t go far enough on Watson, who scored five touchdowns for the second consecutive week. Half a point.
0.5 out of 1
MLB (Playoff Edition):
Cubs at Nationals, 10/6:
The Nationals didn’t win – they Nats’d it pretty hard – but Stephen Strasburg was as good as advertised. The two runs he allowed were unearned, coming after an incredibly rare error by Anthony Rendon, and he struck out 10 across his seven innings. The Nationals just had no run support for him to speak of.
Next year will be the Year of Strasburg, put it in the bank. Half a point.
0.5 out of 1
Red Sox at Astros, 10/5:
This game, unfortunately, went almost exactly how I expected it to. Verlander wasn’t quite as dominant, but Chris Sale’s home run issues persisted and the Red Sox offense managed only two runs, including zero off the Astros’ bullpen once Verlander left the game. The Red Sox put up a better fight in the series than I thought they would, at least. Full point.
1 out of 1
NCAA Football (Week Six):
Iowa State at #3 Oklahoma, 10/7:
I’m so done with you, Oklahoma. No damn points.
0 out of 1
#12 Miami at Florida State, 10/7:
I’m not giving myself any points here because I feel like Miami winning was a pretty obvious pick, and it’s the only thing I actually got right. Florida State hung in with them pretty well and impressively bottled up their rushing attack, which is the exact opposite of what I thought would happen. You can’t accuse me of cheating to help my score, at least. No points.
0 out of 1
#23 West Virginia at #8 TCU, 10/7:
This game was certainly a worthy Game of the Week, as a TCU score with just under three minutes remaining proved to be the decisive moment. Will Grier was as good as I expected him to be, and he carried the “gaudy Big 12 passing numbers” torch well, but Kenny Hill scored touchdowns passing, rushing, and receiving in leading TCU to the win. I’m going with half a point.
0.5 out of 1
This Week’s Score: 3.5 points out of 9
The Overall Tally: 16 out of 43 (37%)
Bonus Nonsense of the Week:
It’s a little less goofy than normal, but I found this article from ESPN last week in the process of writing about the West Virginia game, and I thought it was incredibly interesting. I remember the story about Lane Kiffin and the 13-year-old recruit going fairly viral back when it happened, but it completely faded from my memory not long afterwards. David Sills V has been money in the bank for West Virginia this year – 33 catches, 512 yards, 9 TDs – and he reminds me perhaps a bit of Jordy Nelson. Good for him for finding his niche after the circus that was his recruitment process.